*Warning: Evidence is misleading.
While we present to you a small selection of the overwhelming amount of data on the positive effects of meditation, such evidence may lead you to think there is somewhere to go, or something to achieve. This is the opposite of what we do when we meditate.
Meditation is the practice of being awake and aware now, in the present moment, as it is - not as we want it to be or how we think it should be. The moment you begin to think there is somewhere else to get to, you are no longer here. You are no longer awake and aware of the here and now. You are no longer present to this moment.
Read the following evidence with caution: there's no where to go but here.
To access the original article, click on the image, the "Learn More" button, or on the teal title of the journal article.
Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering
"Given that the ability to attend to a task without distraction underlies performance in a wide variety of contexts, training one’s ability to stay on task should result in a similarly broad enhancement of performance. In a randomized controlled investigation, we examined whether a 2-week mindfulness-training course would decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. Mindfulness training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity while simultaneously reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts during completion of the GRE and the measure of working memory. Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting. Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide- reaching consequences."
The science is a bit dense (click the image, title or "learn more" link below to access the original paper), so this time we're using the Harvard Gazette's overview ("Eight Weeks to a Better Brain") to summarize:
"Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. In a study [in] Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter.
"The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
"Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
"“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany."
Much of NorthScale trainings are done in silence. This study on the effects of music and sound (eg, white noise) on the performance of adult mice provides evidence for why silence is more effective than guided meditation, chanting, visualizing, etc for training and calming your mind.
Again, the scientific abstract is a bit dense, so we're using NYMag's review of the study to surmise it's findings.*
"[I]n a paper [Duke University’s Imke Kirste, a regenerative biologist] co-authored titled “Is Silence Golden?” Kirste found that “two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus region of the brain,” where memories are formed. Silence was, in fact, better than music for creating new brain cells. This is huge: It implies that for patients with dementia or depression, silence can be downright therapeutic.
So go ahead. Put on those noise-cancelling headphones, close your eyes for three minutes, and say or do exactly nothing. Those three minutes might be the key to a more productive and happier subsequent 23 hours and 57 minutes.)"
*Don't worry. we still link to the original scientific publication in the image, the teal title and "Learn More" button below.